NEW ORLEANS -- The New Orleans traffic cameras that enforce a 25 mph speed zone near Chartres and Desire in the Bywater neighborhood are back.
A couple of weeks ago someone torched the equipment.
Before the city could put the cameras back online, the Louisiana Supreme Court ordered traffic cameras across the city offline.
The high court sided with two lower court rulings that the program violated the city charter because the department of public works, not the police department, runs the program.
City Councilmember-at-Large Jackie Clarkson is offering an ordinance she claims fixes the problem.
'On Nov. 4, at the next council meeting we will enact that law,' says Clarkson. 'We will change will change the jurisdiction of the traffic cameras, red-light cameras from being under the department of public works to under the police department.'
That may fix the problem going forward, but what about the tens of thousands of tickets already issued and the millions of dollars in fines collected by the city?
Lawyers are already lining up to force the city to refund the money.
Clarkson said the city should be able to keep the estimated $15 million a year in traffic camera fines.
'The police were overseeing it,' said Clarkson. 'It essentially still had the police as the ultimate stop. We were doing it in a way that minimized the use of police manpower and doing it in a way the police was the final word.'
'That's certainly the argument the city made,' said Loyola Law Professor Dane Ciolino. 'Judge Irons didn't buy it, and her opinion survived review by the Fourth Circuit and Louisiana Supreme Court.'
Ciolino said that doesn't mean past violators will automatically get back their money.
'The city will no doubt argue that even if the program was structured improperly, these people have lost their right to challenge the payment by simply paying it without any objection,' said Ciolino.
While the City Council works to make the traffic cameras legal, the city is losing money. The cameras were set to raise about $15 million this year.
From all indications, the cameras will be down for at least a month.
'It will make a slight hole in the process, but not the total hole, so we'll have to deal with that,' said Clarkson.
According to Dane Ciolino, the Louisiana Supreme Court basically sent the traffic camera case back to the trial court for a hearing on the merits of the law.
Typically a case like this could take up to two years to come to trial.
Ciolino said the city could ask for an expedited hearing, if and when a new traffic camera ordinance is approved by the City Council.